December Newsletter Article

Labels can be extremely important.  If you don’t think so, go ask a diabetic!  But many people are uncomfortable when it comes to labels and Christianity.  There is concerted effort to redefine or change the terminology these days.  It used to be enough to say that there was a difference between being religious and being Christian.  Now you can’t even be a Christian anymore, but you need to be a “Christ-follower.” We’re told that this is not only hip and trendy, but necessary to reach a people that don’t like Christianity or the church anymore.  Some even say that they don’t have a problem with Jesus, just the church!  We’re too judgmental.  We’re too hateful.  We’re too opinionated.

What I find is that most people have a caricature of Jesus, Christianity and the church that they are responding to.  Let’s take Jesus for a minute.  Yes, he is loving and kind.  Yes, he died for us.  But he called out sin.  He even called people names.  He made a whip of cords and drove people out of the temple, probably not once but twice!  Do you have a full picture of who Jesus is?  Does society?

Many people look at the Church or the concept of Christianity and feel physically sick.  They see a constant picture of abuse and neglect.  They think about the people that have harmed them in the past.  They can’t get beyond any of that.  But, from my understanding, most Red Cross meals that are served after a natural disaster are served by Christian organizations.  Food banks are provided by churches.  Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian organization, is on the forefront of the fight against Ebola in Africa.  Churches offer counseling.  They house community events.  They reach out.  They help provide a sense of belonging and caring that can be so difficult to find in today’s world.

I believe that one of our basic problems today is that we don’t have a real sense of who God is and how he works in the world.  We don’t really believe that the Holy Spirit convinces, that God calls, or that the Bible convicts.  We think that it’s all up to clever marketing, high pressure sales, and a watered down message.  Blame my rant on my current sermon series.  God is Sovereign!  God is in control!

Does that mean we don’t try?  Does that mean we don’t present the gospel?  Does that mean we don’t reach out to people? Of course not!  “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace.”  We are called to proclaim.  We’re called to be faithful.  We’re called to follow.  But we have to make sure that we understand that God is doing the work, God is doing the calling, God is doing the convincing, and that, try as we might to have an effect through our own power and reasoning, we probably just end up convincing ourselves how clever we are instead of pleasing God.

So, after all is said and done, what am I?  Sure I’m a Christian, but I’m also a protestant, evangelical, Baptist pastor, and I’m not ashamed to say it.  I believe that if we follow God it doesn’t matter what we’re called or what we call ourselves.  I believe that theology is important.  I believe that the gospel is important.  I believe that God is on his throne.  And I think that all of that it important this Christmas.

Why I like Clear Creek Baptist Bible College, or, a tale of three Southern Baptist schools…

When my son was looking for an affordable school to attend for his undergraduate studies, my wife stumbled upon Clear Creek Baptist Bible College in Kentucky.  We took Andrew for a visit and were very impressed.  Clear Creek is not the flashiest school, or the school with the most resources, but is committed to its mission of training theological students.  Although Andrew hasn’t physically attended classes on campus, he was able to take all of his courses online and will be finishing his degree this year.

Because the school is focused on helping students train for ministry, they do everything they can to support their studies.  Part of that includes financial assistance.  Their tuition is extremely low, as is room and board for those students who live on campus.  Every Thanksgiving and Christmas Andrew has received a love gift, and this last semester Andrew received an unexpected scholarship that helped with his tuition!

Let me contrast that with two other schools, both with historic buildings, endowments, and prestigious histories. The first, one of my alma maters, recently held a 10 year anniversary party for their president, to the tune of $50,000.  The second, in an immense story of self-aggrandizement, has just commission 69 stained glass windows for their new chapel to “immortalize Baptists who helped effect the culture change to more conservative attitudes in the Southern Baptist Convention.”  Believe it or not, the current president and his wife will be prominently displayed in a window.

So, which one of these schools is using their resources wisely, and helping their students more?

A question of theology…

My recent trip to Bethel University prompted some people to ask me what I thought of the school and the seminary, particularly with regard to their theological leanings.  I haven’t spent a lot of time researching the issue, but I do have two comments:

1) I do take issue with the school for its handling of the open theism of Greg Boyd.  I do not believe that open theism is compatible with Biblical Christianity.  If you are interested in reading a Biblical refutation of open thesim, I would point you to issue 46 of the Founders Journal.  For a philosophical refutation, try The Case Against Open Theism.  Incidentally, if you are interested in furthering your Biblical knowledge, I highly recommend the free online courses at  Their apologetics course also has a lecture on open theism.

2) This is more of an anecdotal incident.  Many of you know my friend Dr. Maurice Robinson, professor of Greek and New Testament at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.  While he was working on his PhD (back in the 70’s), one of his professors decided that he could not affirm the Southern Baptist’s new emphasis on Biblical inerrancy. Where did he end up?  At Bethel!